Australian Open Day 7: Our Preview and Predictions! - UBITENNIS
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Australian Open Day 7: Our Preview and Predictions!

Maria Sharapova vs. Belinda Bencic is the match of the day on Sunday for day 7 at the 2016 Australian Open. Is it time for a new rising star to take the spotlight or will the Russian manage to use her experience to win? Federer faces Goffin, Tsonga vs. Nishikori is the match of the day on the men’s side. Our preview and predictions here!

Ivan Pasquariello

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Rod Laver Arena

 

Belinda Bencic (SUI)[12] vs. Maria Sharapova (RUS)[5] 

Match of the day on the women’s side. The two have never faced one another on the tour before. With a Grand Slam quarterfinal at stake in their first clash, both players will be bringing their A-game in Melbourne Park tomorrow. Maria was allegedly far from her best form approaching the Australian Open, having to retire from the first tournaments played in the season with precarious physical conditions. The Russian has however swiped away all competition she faced in Melbourne, even managing to come back from a set loss against Davis in the third round, by dominating the third set without losing a game. Belinda had to fight for 2 hours to beat Bondarenko in the third round, and hasn’t looked at her best. The Swiss might be the new rising star of women’s tennis, but she seems to struggle against big pure baseline hitters such as Maria Sharapova. In New York she lost in two easy sets against Venus Williams, who has a game style very close to the one the Russian brings every time on court. Maria should be able to use her consistent aggression to win the match in three sets.

Serena Williams (USA)[1] vs. Margarita Gasparyan (RUS)

Serena hasn’t been challenged so far in the tournament and talented one-handed backhand Gasparyan will hardly be able to take a set away from the World No.1. The American should win in straight sets, also considering how she dominated the Russian last year at Wimbledon, in their first ever meeting.

Novak Djokovic (SRB)[1] vs. Gilles Simon (FRA)[14]

The last time Simon has managed to beat Djokovic was the very first time the two met on the tour, 8 years ago in 2008 in Marseille. After that, Novak won 9 matches in a row against the French and the trend is hardly going to be interrupted this Sunday in Melbourne. When the points count, Novak always brings out his very best and wins it all, just as he did against Seppi in the third round managing to avoid a set loss. Djokovic should once again win in straight sets.

Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP)[10] vs. Daria Gavrilova (AUS)

Carla has been helped by the draw to reach this stage of the competition, despite hardly ever playing her best tennis. The young Australian should prove to be playing too well for the Spaniard right now. Gavrilova should be able to pull out the upset in straight sets.

Roger Federer (SUI)[3] vs. David Goffin (BEL)[15]

After winning his 300th match in a Gand Slam, Federer looks set to continue winning at these 2016 Australian Open. The Swiss has performed coming out on top of every tough situation he has faced so far in the draw. The way he dominated both Dolgopolov and Dimitrov has been impressive and I don’t see the talented Belgian being able to win the match. Maybe Goffin will win a set as he did last year in Basel against the Swiss, but hardly something more than that.

Margaret Court Arena

 

Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP)[24] vs. Tomas Berdych (CZE)[6]

Bautista Agut could have been considered a threat for Berdych, but not after the Czech has dominated Kyrgios the way he did in the previous round. Always consistent, on the attack, Tomas is playing at a very high level this year in Australia. Any player not ranked in the top 5 will have a hard time trying to beat Berdych. Tomas should win in 4 sets.

Hisense Arena

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA)[9] vs. Kei Nishikori (JPN)[7]

Match of the day on the men’s side, surprisingly scheduled on Hisense Arena. Nishikori leads the Head-2-Head against the French by 4-2, but Tsonga has won the last match played in a major last year at the French Open. Considering the level expressed by both players in Australia so far, I believe the French should be able to pull out the upset. After all, the two matches Kei has won in 2013 and 2014 in Bercy were both tight three-set contests which could have ended with any of the two players on the winning side. Jo should use his ability to perform at his best in Australia by winning the match in 4 or 5 sets.

Agnieszka Radwanska (POL)[4] vs. Anna-Lena Friedsam (GER)

Radwanska has been one of the most convincing players so far in the women’s draw. Always winning as the favourite, she has hardly been challenged so far. Big server Friedsam shouldn’t be able to go as far as winning six games in a set losing in the tie-break. A top seed will be needed to beat Aga this year in Melbourne.

 

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US Open: Shelby Rogers Delivers; Serena Still A Threat To Win 24th Major

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Serena Williams - US Open (photo Twitter @usopen)

After all of these years of playing in the U.S. Open, Shelby Rogers is finally a seeded player.

 

The Charleston, S.C., native has been playing America’s premier tennis event almost continuously since her debut in New York in 2010. She’ll turn 30 years old in a few weeks and has worked her way up the rankings to 31st in the world.

That’s a big achievement from the little girl who hung on the fences more than two decades ago to watch her older sister Sabra play high school matches that eventually led to an Al-American career for Sabra at Emory University. Sabra became a psychologist and, of course, is one of  Shelby’s biggest fans.

LOOK OUT FOR ROGERS?

Rogers took the direct route. She didn’t play high school tennis, but left the classroom before high school to train in tennis, study online and play the junior circuit. She turned pro in 2009 at age 16.

Monday evening at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center, It took Rogers awhile to start living up to her ranking. But once she turned the corner after dropping the first set in nine games, Shelby started looking like a seasoned top 30 player.

Rogers sort of blew The Netherlands’ slim Arantxa Rus away, taking a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory in the opening round of the U.S. Open. Rogers especially played the deciding 28th game of the match like the veteran pro she is. She hit one long forehand and netted one ball in that game, but otherwise she rode her big serve to victory in the clinching game. At 40-30, she delivered a huge first serve down the middle that Rus couldn’t put into play.

WOMEN’S RACE TO TOP PRIZE WIDE OPEN

The way things are on the women’s tour these days, with no true leader while once-amazing top-ranked Iga Swiatek tries to regain her dominance, anything is possible.

Yes, even finally a 24th Grand Slam title for Serena Williams.

But this is about Shelby Rogers. She is playing the best tennis of her career nearly a decade and a half after her life as a professional tennis player started.

With any kind of luck, Rogers could leave New York ranked among the top 25 players in the world, or maybe higher if she continues to serve and play the kind of big-ball tennis she played  in the last 19 games Monday night.

WHO’S NEXT IN LINE

So, what’s after Swiatek, who started the year on fire with a long unbeaten streak that went through the French Open and rewarded her with as many points as the confined totals of the Nos. 2 and 3 players. Of course, Ashleigh Barty’s retirement after winning the Australian Open opened the door for Swiatek’s rise to the top.

And then Wimbledon’s grass took care of Swiatek.

Nos. 2-5 Anett Kontaveit, Maria Sakkari, Paula Badosa and Ons Jabeur are all outstanding players, but none currently fit in the great column. They appear to be waiting in line for Swiatek or another Barty-like player to step forward to rule the women’s tour.

WHAT ABOUT UKRAINE’S DARIA!

Then there are almost totally unknown players such as Ukraine’s Daria Snigur. I hadn’t given Snigur much chance at all on the pro tour until her shocking U.S. Open first-round victory over multi-Grand Slam tournament winner and seventh-ranked Simona Halep. 

The last time I had thought about Snigur was when she upended Charleston’s Emma Navarro in the Junior Wimbledon semifinals and then won the Junior Grand Slam tournament.

At Junior Wimbledon in 2019, I thought Navarro, who also is now on the WTA Tour and is currently ranked 145th in the world, would roll past Snigur the way she had in the 2019 Junior French Open quarterfinals. But Snigur is so deceptive with her ground strokes that strike like lightning, she dominated Navarro at that Junior Wimbledon.

So, maybe the currently 124th-ranked Snigur may be ready to make a mark on the tour after scoring her first tour victory by defeating Halep.

NO NOVAK, BUT RAFA IS THERE

Without Novak Djokovic, the men are about as unpredictable as the women, with the exception of one player. Rafa Nadal, of course, entered this U.S. Open, with a perfect 19-0 record this year in Grand Slams.

Daniil Medvedev is the defending champion at the U.S. Open, but even though he is ranked No. 1 in the world, it’s a long road to the final for the Russian. Medvedev hasn’t always been predictable.

And already, No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas has been eliminated by a complete unknown, Daniel Elahi Galan.

Wow! The Greek star probably was about as much of a favorite as Medvedev.

And poor Dominic Thiem was cast on an outside court. And he lost. Just a couple of years ago, Thiem was winning the U.S. Open.

My top five picks in order would be: Nadal, Jannik Sinner, Nick Kyrgios, Medvedev and Andy Murray. Yes, Andy looks pretty fit.

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James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. 

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Will Rafael Nadal Keep The Grand Slam Winning Feeling Going In New York?

Rafael Nadal has injury doubts heading into his search for a 23rd grand slam title in New York.

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Rafael Nadal (@usopen - Twitter)

Rafael Nadal will look to repeat successes from Melbourne and Paris by answering his doubters with triumph in New York.

 

The Spaniard enters the last grand slam with injury doubts having only just come back from an abdominal injury suffered in his Wimbledon quarter-final against Taylor Fritz.

It was injury that saw his calendar grand slam dream come to an end and ever since then has been recovering in the hopes of finishing the grand slam year strong in New York.

However in his first match back Nadal was defeated in three sets to Borna Coric in New York which has put doubts on whether the Spaniard can be a threat in the US.

Nadal will likely not have to worry about Novak Djokovic but a victory in New York could see him be world number one with current number one Daniil Medvedev defending the title.

The likes of Medvedev, Carlos Alcaraz and Stefanos Tsitsipas will be standing in Nadal’s way and if the Spaniard isn’t match-fit then he could face an early exit.

However as tennis pundit Barbara Schett pointed out, ruling out Nadal at this stage would be foolish and the Spaniard always raises his level at the grand slams, “The match is always different from practice,” Schett told Eurosport.

“And whoever had an abdominal injury and a tear on the abdominal muscles knows how it feels. You have to be extremely cautious. You’re worried that you’re going to reinjure it again.

“And I think that’s what we’ve seen on Wednesday. When he played against Coric, he was a little bit uncertain how the body was going to hold up. And for sure he’s going to feel better and better.

“If there’s no damage to the abdominal muscle, then he still has a week and a half to improve his health, to improve the trust also that he can extend and he can’t bend on the serve because that’s the trickiest shot, the serve and the smash.

“When that is the case, Rafa Nadal certainly can be dangerous again at the US Open. I mean, he’s so fired up at every single Grand Slam. We’ve seen this year playing the best tennis of his life. You can never, ever write him off.”

Nadal is currently undefeated at grand slams and if fit, the Spaniard will certainly fancy himself to win another seven matches at the US Open this year.

Whatever it should be interesting to see if Nadal improves before the US Open with the tournament starting on the 29th of August.

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Does WTA Need A Top Rivalry To Drive The Sport?

Iga Swiatek is the WTA’s dominant world number one but does she need a rival in order to drive the sport to new heights.

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Iga Swiatek (@TennisHandshake - Twitter)

The WTA has a dominant world number one and a variety of talented players on the tour but the one thing it’s lacking at the moment is a top rivalry.

 

First of all it was supposed to be Bianca Andreescu and Naomi Osaka, then Ash Barty and Osaka and also Barty and Iga Swiatek.

However none of these match-ups created a top rivalry over a long period to generate an overwhelming amount of interest.

After Barty’s shock retirement, many people were left disappointed at the fact that her and current dominant world number one Iga Swiatek could not compete for the sport’s biggest titles in a fierce rivalry.

Now Swiatek sits at the top of the WTA rankings with almost a 4,000 point lead at the top. The rest of the field are very talented and that in itself is an intriguing aspect of the WTA’s appeal.

But the one thing the women’s game lacks is a top rivalry to generate a hype that the ATP clearly has right now.

As Mark Petchey said it’s an issue that needs solving soon as every sport has one, “Rivalries drive the sport. What they do is make sure that it manifests itself in a big polarisation of a large fan base, against another one,” Petchey was quoted as saying by Tennis365.

“You look across the board, over F1, look at the tribal nature of AFL, of Premier League football here. It’s a huge part of what you need to have a successful sport. That is the one thing that is missing from the women’s tour at the moment, is a superb rivalry, with a little bit of edge.

“That’s why I say I’m sad that Ash pulled up stumps, because I think that rivalry could’ve developed with Iga in that way. Would it have been quite as intense as the Rafa-Novak and Roger-Novak rivalries? Probably not. But it would have been there. Going into every major saying that you’re not looking forward to a specific clash potentially when the draw comes out, does hurt the tour a little bit. 

“You can’t keep saying ‘oh, anyone can win it’. Because you’re just not tagging anybody… you’re not setting the scene for something amazing that’s going to happen, a nice little volcanic eruption right at the back-end of a major. They need some people to be a bit more consistent and getting through, because that’s what will be a massive driver for the WTA.”

It’s hard to argue with those points of view from Petchey as rivalries are what are talked about for decades after players have retired.

It will be interesting to see whether Swiatek will continue to dominate the rest of the field or whether someone can build a rivalry with the Pole heading into the remainder of the season.

The next big WTA event of the year will take place at the Rogers Cup in Toronto on the week of the eighth of August.

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